Does American Indian Ancestry Show Up on DNA Tests?

Do you want to know if American Indian ancestry will show up on a DNA test? Are you wondering if you inherited DNA from your Native American ancestors, and if this will show on your DNA results?

This is one of the top questions that I receive related to ethnicity estimates, also referred to ancestry estimates. These estimates are typically reported in percentage form, and sometimes look like the pie charts we all learned how to use in school.

Does American Indian Ancestry Show Up on DNA Tests_

People who grew up listening to family stories about their Native American roots might wonder if they inherited DNA from these ancestors and if it will show up on their DNA results.

Does American Indian show up on DNA results?

Yes. If you inherited DNA through your American Indian ancestry, also known as Native American or indigenous American ancestry, this be reported on your DNA results.

Whether you have indigenous North or South American heritage from Alaska, Virginia, Puerto Rico, or New Mexico (US), Quebec or Yukon (Canada), Oaxaca or Durango (Mexico), Veraguas (Panama), São Paulo or Maranhão (Brazil), Soriano (Uruguay), or anywhere in between, it will show up as Native American DNA on an autosomal DNA test.

All of the recommended DNA testing companies test for DNA that matches Native American reference panels report this region on their results. This means that if you have DNA that matches these regions, it will show up on your reports.

You might be interested to know, however, that each company uses different language to show these regions on their customer’s estimates, however. For example, you might see indigenous North or South American ancestry reported as:

  • Native American
  • Central and South America
  • New World
  • Native Americas

Certain DNA testing companies will report more specific sub-regions. This will only occur if your DNA matches a sub-region. We will not see the names of specific tribes or nations appear as a sub-region (more on this below).

Some people with Native American ancestry might see East Asia on their DNA results, too. Unless you have reasons to believe that you have recent East Asian ancestry, DNA matching the East Asia region may have also been inherited from Native American ancestors.

Before we get started, it is very important to note that we do not share DNA with all of our ancestors. We inherit only 50% of each of our parent’s DNA, which means that a great deal of information about our ancestry is essentially “lost” each generation.

If your Native American ancestors are very far back in your family tree, it is possible to not have inherited any DNA from them, even if they truly are your ancestors. You can read more about reasons why Native American ancestry sometimes doesn’t show up in this post:

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How does American Indian show up on DNA tests?

As I mentioned above, each company has their own way of reporting DNA that matches indigenous North or South American ancestry. Below, you can see how DNA from these regions shows up on all of the major DNA testing companies.

How does American Indian show up on Ancestry DNA?

If you test with Ancestry DNA and you have DNA that matches the Native American region, then you can expect to see Native American show up on your Ancestry DNA results. Ancestry tests for the Native American region, as well 500 other regions.

Below, you can see how Native American DNA will show up on Ancestry DNA. Of course, the exact amount that you receive on your results will depend on your unique genome:

The person whose DNA you see above was detected to be 100% Native American per Ancestry DNA’s population references. He was found to have such a high percentage of Native American DNA because both of his parents have extensive Native American ancestry. In fact, the DNA test taker speaks an indigenous language fluently.

To learn more about Ancestry DNA results and learn how to get a test:

How does American Indian show up on 23andMe?

23andMe tests for Native American DNA along with 178 other regions around the world. If you have Native American DNA, even a very small amount, this will be reported on your “Ancestry Composition Report”.

If you have a high percentage of Native American DNA on your 23andMe results, there is a goo chance that you will also receive a sub-region. Sub-regions under the Native American category are generally countries from within the larger region.

The person whose DNA results you see below has only a “trace” amount of Native American DNA. Indeed, their Native American ancestor is more than eight generations back in their family tree:

A percentage so small (.1%) also has the possibility of being an error. Even so, most people prefer to determine for themselves via family tree research whether they do, or do not, have American Indian ancestors.

If you have more recent Native American ancestors, you will likely receive a larger percentage of Native American on your 23andMe results.

To learn more about 23andMe results and to learn how to get a test:

How does American Indian show up on Family Tree DNA?

Family tree DNA tests for Native American regions along with 23 other regions. Native American DNA, reported under the “New World” category will show up on your Family Tree DNA MyOrigins results if you inherited DNA from your ancestors that match these regions.

The image below is from a person with primarily Native American DNA from Mexico:

If you want to learn more about Family Tree DNA results, check out this post:

How does American Indian show up on My Heritage DNA?

DNA from indigenous American peoples will also show up on My Heritage DNA. This company reports DNA from this region as simply “America”. Under the “America” category, if your DNA matches these regions, you might have other sub-regions like Central and South American, or Native American.

My Heritage tests for Native American DNA as well as more than 40 other regions.

Below, you can see an example of what Native American DNA might look like on My Heritage DNA:

Do you want to know more about My Heritage DNA results? Check out this post:

Example of My Heritage DNA results

How does American Indian show up on Living DNA?

Living DNA, a relative newcomer to the DNA testing scene, also tests for DNA that matches Native American regions. It shows up under the “Native Americas” category.

If Native American shows up on your Living DNA results, it might also match some of their sub-regions, like the Indigenous South America or Mesoamerica region.

The person whose DNA is shown below tested with Living DNA and showed approximately 78% Native American DNA. If we add in the 3% East Asia (not shown), it will equal about 81% Native American DNA.

Interested in learning about Living DNA results? This post shows examples and how to get a Living DNA test:

Why DNA tests don’t identify a specific indigenous tribe or group

You won’t be able to determine exactly which tribe, nation, or group your Native American ancestors belonged to by simply taking a DNA test. At best, you may be able to use the information from your ethnicity results to help you figure out which Native American peoples historically lived within the regions on your results.

Your DNA can provide helpful clues that can help you determine whether such ancestry exists, however. If you have substantial Native American on your results and DNA matches that share this ancestry with you, you might be able to use this information to build a family tree.

Family tree documentation is the most effective way to learn more about the tribe or tribes to which your ancestors may have belonged. It is important to note that most Native American tribes and nations have their own specific requirements for citizenship or membership.


I hope that this post has helped you understand whether Native American or American Indian DNA will show up on a DNA test, and how ancestry from these regions might show up on your results.

If you have any questions about something that you read in this post, or if you would like to share your own Native American results, please join us in the discussion below.

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